All or nothing

Pastor Matthew Best
4 min readAug 4, 2017

It’s either all true or it’s a lie…

It’s either my way or the highway…

It’s either (my political party) or else it’s the spawn of Satan…

You either agree with me 100% (and therefore you are right) or any disagreement means you are wrong and heading to hell in a hand basket. Did I mention that you are going to hell, you heretic! (Doesn’t that make you want to give up your beliefs and adopt mine)

It’s either this or it’s that…(And that is presented as a terrible option, if you want to call it that)

This is the logic that many people operate with today. Then again, it’s not new. It’s the logic that argues that either the Bible is inerrant (meaning incapable of any errors) or it’s a book of lies. There’s no middle ground. There can’t be. It’s all or nothing. Remarkably, fundamentalists and atheists use the same argument here. Go ahead and tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor or irony now.

At any rate, all or nothing arguments are weak at best. Yes, you heard me — weak. If your faith in God can’t handle some questions, doubts, and some science that disproves some portions of the bible, then I have to wonder about your faith.

If you can’t accept that creation wasn’t made in 7 literal days, then I have to wonder if your faith is a house of cards — one card taken out and the whole things falls apart. Are you convinced that you are going to become an atheist if you don’t buy something as it is literally stated. What happened to faith being a gift from God? Sounds like your faith is based on how right you are in your belief. Which isn’t faith at all, by the way.

I also have to wonder why you pit science against religion and faith. They don’t have to be in a mortal battle for Truth. They could be seen different — like both helping to move us towards truth, but in different ways. There isn’t anything wrong with that. Accepting what science has found doesn’t diminish our faith. At least it doesn’t have to anyway.

We can actually believe that evolution is pretty good science and still believe that God created human being in God’s own image. (Gasp!) We can believe that science has some pretty good ideas of how the universe was formed and still believe in the creation story (Oh the horror!). We can believe that science compliments religion and faith.

Understanding evolutionary science has allowed doctors to better treat cancer. That makes pastoral care much better. Understanding the science also helps pastors deal with really bad theological statements like: “God doesn’t give us more than can handle.” If we understand the science of cancer, we can understand that it’s not God doing this, and that cancer is random and sporadic and sometimes there really isn’t a reason for something to happen. It’s not a test from God. It’s not God’s fault. It’s not something designed to make you stronger. It just is and it sucks.

But that means we have to broaden our horizons and see past the binary, A or B only, way of thinking. We have to get out of our American, Republican or Democrat are the only options thank you very much, way of thinking the world works.

In most cases, there is a third option — and often a fourth, fifth, or sixth option. And the amazing thing is that these options are not in opposition to one another — but they are other options. The world isn’t about either/or only. That would be really boring. There would be no freedom. Frankly, either/or sucks. It doesn’t give us room for options. It makes no room for freedom or love. It kills peace and sets us on a path of division and war. It squashes grace and forgiveness. It ignores the reality that life is messy and rarely are the choices that clear anyway. It isn’t based in reality.

It is great for an argument on the internet or if you are only concerned with being right though. I’m having trouble thinking of another good use for this way of thinking though.

If you force me to pick in an all or nothing situation — I’m most likely going to poke holes in the assumption that there are only two options. I don’t accept the premise. I don’t think it’s based in reality, and I don’t think it’s being honest. Which means the choices presented are themselves false.

Unfortunately, I see this way of thinking gaining a great deal of attention in recent years. That’s unfortunate. I hope we choose a different path in the future. There are plenty of people who have been hurt by either/or ways of structuring society. We owe them an alternative. One that considers other options. It’s time to leave either/or thinking to the dust bin of history, or else! (come on, you know you’re laughing at the ending here. I just couldn’t help myself.) Peace.

Originally published at on August 4, 2017.



Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.